Officially rainy and Jupiter setting

As of yesterday, PAG-ASA has announced the start of the southwest monsoon. This only means that the rainy season is already upon us, and I can now wear my boots again! This also means not using lot of leather bags. While I had a good experience with the Collonil Waterstop spray, it was just too costly. The bottle only lasted for about a month, with the rotation that I do.

To welcome the rainy season (that just seem wrong), I used a canvas bag with minimal leather parts.

Gucci in black canvas and leather tote with silver hardware, Doc Martens 8-hole boots

The silver hardware is reminiscent of the Gucci Jackie bags

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Hello! Ilocos Norte! – Day 3

One word I was most excited for today — WATER; be it from water coming atop the mountain or the northernmost body of water of the Philippines, I definitely soaked up the sun! As we would be facing a very busy day, we woke up before 7:00 AM, barely an hour to prepare before leaving Laoag City to go northward to Bangui and Pagudpud.

Locating ourselves in the map on the way to Bangui

Driving to Bangui, we had to stop several times because I have been enthusiastically oriented by Mon’s family members to several famous spots, as well as momentary glimpses of both the West Philippine Sea (see what I did there =D) and the Luzon Strait. When we were already in Bangui, I was in complete awe to see the windmills. I knew beforehand that they were big but they were much bigger in person than I had expected!

Finally beholding the magnificent Bangui Windmills

The largest, mini-me of the Bangui Windmills

We spent almost an hour taking pictures and perusing over the souvenir shops by the beach. We then went straight to Pagudpud where both Agua Grande and the white sand beach awaited us. But first, we had to cross the Patapat Bridge (or Patapat Viaduct), known as the 4th lognest bridge in the country and connecting Ilocos Norte to Cagayan Valley. Personally, I had no idea that it was a tourist spot but the number of vehicles stopping so that passengers can take a picture was evident enough of how famous the place was.

The famous Patapat Bridge

Overlooking the Luzon Strait from Patapat Bridge - Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Barely a quarter of a kilometer away from the end of the bridge, we arrived in Agua Grande as it was our stop for lunch. It was where the lonely river flows to the sea (to the sea LOL) and the rushing water from the mountain was extremely cold. I have never bathed in a place full of boulders and it was indeed a geological wonder. =D I was really happy in Agua Grande and I can honestly stay there the whole day. I forgot how much the entrance fee was, but it was barely Php 40 per person. They also have a restroom near the entrance (Php 5 per usage) and a cottage could be rented for Php 300.

Makeshift infinity pool in Agua Grande,Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Water rushing downstream - Agua Grande, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Mon in Agua Grande, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Newfound respect for freshwater - Agua Grande, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

After eating a very quick lunch, we immediately took the plunge and let ourselves carried away by the water. I also felt like a kid carefullyjumping and crawling from one boulder to another, just to reach the spot where the waves crashed against the rocks. When Mon’s cousin and brother was there, I managed to take photos of them with a 15-foot wave in the background. When it was our turn, the winds might have died down a bit and we barely had a good one. It was still an amazing moment, though,

Trying to get a nice crashin wave in the background - Agua Grande, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Netx destination, the white sand beach! Entering the area from the highway, we had to pay another entrance fee. It was Php 20 for adults, Php 10 for children and discounted rates at Php 16 for senior citizens. Driving a couple of minutes from the “entrance”, we dropped by Bantay Abot Cave (which was not really a cave) to take pictures one by one with the rock formation. I think the less-than-an-hour stay there gave me the ugly tanline on my feet, where the thongs of my flip flops were “imprinted”. I should have put sunblock. LOL

Entrance fee to Pagudpud Beach proper - Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Bantay Abot Cave - Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

After leaving Bantay Abot Cave, we could see Saud Beach below and the white sand shore sent tingles down my spin! LOL The last time I was near the sea was more than six months ago in Zambales, where we did not enjoy the vacation because of my medical emergency. They dub this place as the “Boracay of the North” but I wholeheartedly agree with what Laylay said (she was a Tourism major after all). It should not be tagged in terms of other places because it has lots of charms on its own. I definitely hate when people/places are dubbed as the next-whatever.

Establishments in Saud Beach - Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Arriving in this place full of establishments, our vehicle was halted and told off by some police officers as we could not just park and swim on the beach because we had to pay for a cottage costing at Php 600 minimum (come to think of it, it was not even a nipa hut cottage but a table with a giant umbrella if I remember correctly). Oh hello capitalism! There was no way we would pay Php 600 for that! We just left and went to a place just outside that area, where we saw a signage on wood saying a Php 250 rental for a cottage.

Saud Beach, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Granted that we were not in the beach front of that overly-commercialized area, but we loved how slightly alone we were in our own little part of the beach. It has the same sun, sand and waves so I personally did not care. After drinking a big gulp of already warm orange juice and putting on sunblock, I immediately ran to the beach with Mon, his siblings and his cousin. ^_^ The waves were no joke and I had to twice pull myself out of the water because the incoming ones were sucking up the water.

Look at me overwhelmed by the waves LOL - Pagudpud Beach, Ilocos Norte

The waves were no joke - Pagudpud Beach, Ilocos Norte

Mon’ sister, Anne, did not bother getting in the water at all. Good call and she just contented herself with the waves crashing beneath her feet. After I got tired dealing with the waves, we just played with the sand and acted foolish in burying ourselves and building ugly sand castles.

Playing with the white sand - Pagudpud Beach, Ilocos Norte

We had a 9:00 PM bus ride back to Manila to catch so we left the beach at almost half past 3:00 PM. But barely leaving Bangui, our vehicle broke down. We were in the middle of nowhere and the car had no tools inside for emergency. Mon’s uncle had to hitch a ride on a motorcycle, who graciously took him back to wherever there was a mechanic in Bangui.

Fooling around while waiting - Bangui, Ilocos NorteFrustrated - Bangui, Ilocos Norte

After several attempts to repair it and make it run again (which also involved the car acting up midway on the climbing road), we finally made it to the viewing deck where we can see have a good view of the windmills. This is where we significantly spent most of our time and where the darkness fell. We got in the viewing deck just before vendors selling food packed up their things, and even if I were happy with the glowing Moon, we can’t help but feel worried with the whole ordeal.

Bangui Windmills during sunset, as seen from the viewing deck - Bangui, Ilocos NorteAlmost full moon - Bangui, Ilocos NorteAnd the darkness slowly fell - Bangui, Ilocos Norte

 

Almost four hours when the car FINALLY got fixed, I was really engrossed in taking pictures of the night sky, with my camera propped against a bunched up face towel. That was when things got a little creepy because of this shot of the Orion constellation:

Creepy hand--- whose hand was it - Viewing Deck, Bangui, ilocos Norte

 

Mon and I were just sitting on a bench and we were significantly far from the others (most of them were inside the car), when I took this shot. It had a hand, with four fingers showing (presumably with  the thumb bent inwards), reaching out to the sky. Mon mentioned that Anne approached us that time but the fingers in the picture were long and obviously belonging to an adult person. Anne’s fingers were short and stubby as well so there was no way the hand was hers. Just before we left the area, Mon’s brother asked the mechanic why there was no lamp post in the area and he passively answered that a truck accidentally destroyed it, and there area has seen its share of deaths. Yes, plural. Of course, every place has its own urban legends and he mentioned that the viewing deck even witnessed a suicide before. O_O

I don’t usually like creepy stories and I am definitely not the biggest fan of the supernatural. When we showed the photo the others, there was a unanimous sense that something was not right. Superstitions also dictate that the drive should sound his horn everytime he passes on anomalous areas, and we did the exact thing just in case.

We got back in Laoag at exactly 9:00 PM and we went straight to the Fariñas Bus Transit. Our reservation was naturally forfeited and we were not able to ride the bus back home. They have a rule of confirming the reservation thirty minutes before the departure time, and none of us had a working cellphone because our batteries were all empty. We had no choice but to take the second earliest bus home with an en suite bathroom, because Mon’s grandma could not stand a long ride without  going to the loo in between stopovers. At least we all got home safely.

Mon and Moon!

March 17 and I can finally say: HAPPY 28th BIRTHDAY MON! =D I was in the rooftop, with Mon, JB and my mother, testing my new telescope when the clock struck 12:00 AM! I had a hard time adjusting with the telescope, though, as the image was expectedly different than the other telescope. Newtonian telescopes produce images that are upside down, so it was difficult for me to deal with it on my first try. Unlike the other refractor, which produces images backwards, this Newtonian is not ideal for terrestrial use. LOL

Almost twelve hours after, I was woken up by JB because we were to eat our lunch. I was originally to help Mon with preparing lunch for today, but he did not bother waking me up at all. We bought a pack of frozen cream dory and other ingredients from Trinoma’s supermarket last night. Mon had fancied another bout of MasterChef moment and made a very nice meal for us. I especially loved the honey and lemon sauce on the cream dory, as well as the lychee in the jelly. He eventually left after lunch because he also had to spend time with his family on his birthday. =D

What the birthday boy cooked for my family - Cream Dory, buttered vegetabes, lychee jelly and the healthiest rice

 

It was difficult to constantly bring the tripod of the telescope up to the rooftop, given the heavy counterweight, so the best solution I came up with was just to leave it in one corner. I would just remove the telescope tube, which wasn’t heavy at all. Thirty minutes before sunset, JB and I prepared our telescopes and cameras, hoping to get at least a momentary view of Comet PANSTARRS, but to no avail. Good thing that the Moon was visible to the northwest, near Jupiter and I was happy to point my telescope to these two celestial objects.

My new telescope - a Celestron PowerSeeker 127 EQ

Of course, I also tried imaging the Moon with my point and shoot camera and I was delighted with the result. My camera, though, can’t capture the same beautiful thing seen from the telescope as the Moon’s details were more breathtaking as viewed from the eyepiece. I first tried using the 25mm eyepiece (originally from the Meade telescope), then the other 9mm. The picture below was seen through the 25mm one.

First Moon photo from my Celestron PowerSeeker 127 EQ - 03172013 18h58 PHT

I also looked at Jupiter and it was beyond words! Given the bigger mirror of the Celestron, I was able to see Jupiter’s cloud bands as well as the Great Red Spot! With the Meade 70mm, I can barely discern these details and I usually half-guess whether I was seeing them. But using this 127mm, there was no mistaking the difference in the colors of the bands because of the better contrast. I attempted to image Jupiter but I can no longer push my point-and-shoot’s capabilities. All I got was a white blob with four dots (the Galilean moons). The next thing I might do is just purchase a CCD webcam and modify it for astrophotography because I don’t have enough budget for an SLR. LOL

Before wrapping up (because I had to eat dinner and take photos of things I will be listing on Ebay), I  turned my telescope to Orion and almost cried when I saw the Orion Nebula. Again, unlike my other telescope, I just saw a faint haze of light and cloud, which was the nebula. But with this new telescope, I was able to see a much better detail of the clouds and even distinctly see the ‘trapezium cluster’ of four stars! I’m still amazed of the Orion Nebula but I know I have to soon move to seeing other Messier objects. =)

 

One word: FLOP

First of all, I’ll call a spade a spade; the examination earlier this day was a disaster.

I woke up very early at 5:00 AM because I was to meet my classmate in Marcos Hiway by 6:00 AM. Everything went smoothly, even with a light drizzle on our way. We then had to wait from 7:00 AM until 8:00 AM, when the exam would officially start. There were only 12 of us in the room and we were also to leave our things in front of the room next to the proctors. When I said things, I mean ALL of the things we had and that includes water bottles.

We were made to answer 10 personal questions and the rest was the exam proper. So technically, even if there were 180 items, only 170 will be corrected and we should answer each of the questions within a minute and few seconds. I never underestimated the exam but I honestly think that I might have overlooked the review of some of the sections. I can’t remember how many items I had to shotgun but as far as I can recall, almost two hours out of three had already passed before I reached item number 90. The Math portion of the exam was easier than I expected but I wish I could have answered it first before I got glazed eyes from the English part. At this point, I will not be surprised if I fail the exam because I have no qualms admitting that it was hard. The greatest surprise will be passing it and I have already told a few people I would treat them to a box of pizza if that miracle were to happen. The only similarity the exam has with college entrance exams was the multiple choice part, meaning everything else was different. LOL I have moved on but I will take every  lesson from that experience with me until next year, if I were to take the exam again. i’ll just consider it an expensive, getting-one’s-feet-ready review. =D

I then went to Pisa in Italy to unwind…Just kidding!

The Leaning Tower of Pisa --- NOT --- Worlds of Fun

After the exam, I met up with Mon to have lunch in Gateway Mall and we then went next to Sta. Lucia Mall because my family was there. They already had their own lunch and we just followed them to Worlds of Fun, where my niece and my nephew were both busy playing. I can’t remember when was the last time I was there, especially my last experience riding the mini-“rollercoaster” (I hazard a guess that it was more than a decade ago, since high school). Even if I knew that the horror train ride was not exactly scary, I still refused to try it because I might end up scratching the person next to me. =D

Rode a mini-rollercoaster with my sister and nephew

With JB - Gray T-shirt with poncho print, Bench jeans, Yves Saint Laurent white patent sneakers and green Prada Tessuto Robot 2 tote

After 4:00 PM, we went home and rested a little because I was looking forward to seeing an elusive visitor before sunset — Comet PANSTARRS. The comet was slated to reach its perihelion today and I was waiting the whole week for an unobstructed view from our rooftop. And then the inevitable happened, there barely was a cloudless portion of the sky and I only had 20 minutes before sunset. I was with Mon, JB, my telescope and my brother’s camera and it was really depressing that we did not get even a momentary glimpse of the comet. So, what I did next was just take pictures of the two of them while we still had a little daylight.

JB playing with the telescope

In deep contemplation

And another kid playing with the scope

Naks!

I did not manage to get pictures of the comet but the pretty diffused light did wonders to my brother’s bridge camera. Well, that was some silver lining! Today was a very stressful day and it was almost twelve midnight again, five hours more and I would have been awake for 24 hours already. The flop of the exam and the comet did dampen my spirit, but looking back, the whole day wasn’t that bad at all. I can always review, try next year and be more ready. Meanwhile, since the following months will no longer be crucial in terms of strict scheduling, we can now plan for our next trip out of the country!